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Durham University

Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS)

Event Archive

Summer School: Things That Matter. Material and Culture in/for the Digital Age

15th June 2020, 09:00 to 19th June 2020, 17:00, Durham University


Dates & location 15 - 19 June 2020, Online, UK

Level MA/PhD

Academic coordinators

Dr. Mikael Alm (University of Uppsala)

Prof. Raingard Esser (University of Groningen)

Dr. Dario Tessicini (Durham University)

“Things that Matter” addresses the tension between the materiality of sources and their digitization. The recent advances of digital technology have created new modes of reproduction and forms of consumption that have substantially reshaped the concepts of ‘object’ and of ‘collection’ at the heart of cultural institutions such as libraries and museums.

The Summer School engages with key questions that arise from the study of the past in the digital age. These issues include the changing nature of objects such as books and scientific instruments as source materials; the history and practice of collections and collecting, digitization and its challenges, both technological and intellectual. “Things that Matter” maps the possibilities and challenges posed by the digital age for researchers. The ongoing process of digitization makes sources of the past available to a previously unknown extent: but what does this mean for researchers?

We will also discuss the role of objects in Public History. How does society approach the legacy of “things” in museums and heritage institutions? Which objects are “worth keeping”, why and when?

Who determines the selection process and what are the selection criteria for curators, archivists and other agents in the sector? What collections are digitized and why those? Who makes the selections? How do we meet scientific demands on systematic design and transparency when working on online search engines and on differing (and sometimes incompatible) designs of data bases?

The Summer School is developed in collaboration with the related Masters programmes at Durham, Groningen, and Uppsala. These programmes offer interdisciplinary and cross-chronological approaches to the study of the societies and cultures in the premodern and early modern world. This 6th edition of the summer school is hosted by Durham University, UK.


This school is intended for Masters students and PhD students working in the disciplines of History, Art History, Museum and Heritage Studies, and Cultural Studies broadly intended. Students should be studying at (Research) Masters level or should be working on a PhD project.

It is expected that the participants have a sufficient command of the English language to actively participate in the discussions and to present their own work in English .

Course information

The Summer School brings together experts from both academia and the cultural heritage sector. Over the course of one week of intensive teaching, they will deliver lectures, lead seminars and hands- on sessions in libraries and museums, supervise student-led projects and presentations.

The summer school programme will run from 15 June 2020 to 19 June 2020, inclusive.

The summer school is preceded by a non-compulsory online module starting after Easter (details tbc)

Learning outcomes

After this course you will be able to:

- assess and to apply different theories and approaches, particularly in Digital Humanities Research, to your own research;

- work in an international team during an intense study week;

present your own research and to comment constructively on research of your peers.

The workload is estimated at 30 hours of teaching and learning activities over the course of one week (Monday-Friday). Typically, the Summer School will consist of lectures, hands-on sessions and excursions and student-led group work.


Actively participate in all components of the Summer School. All participants must demonstrate that they have digested and analysed the reading for each component of the Summer School

  1. Present their own research in progress or research design
  2. Write an essay in which they critically discuss the themes of the Summer School in relation to their own research
  3. Write a SWOT analysis of the Summer School in which they reflect critically on their learning experience

Applications are now closed